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What Does BA (Hons) Mean?

5 min Read|April 11 2024
|Written by:

George Christofi


The global education system is flourishing by leaps and bounds. Previously, students had only a few subjects and fields to choose from, but now, there are many. The growth in education is pretty positive, but it sometimes leaves the students baffled. Many students are uncertain about their career path owing to numerous fields.

BA (Hons) is yet another field of study and learners often confuse it with the ordinary BA (Bachelor of Arts). So, what exactly is BA (Hons), and is it the right option for students? We’ll learn in the guide below.

An Overview of BA (Hons)

BA stands for Bachelors of Arts, but BA (Hons) is not the standard BA degree. An Honours degree, referred by “Hons” as an abbreviation, is an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. Universities across the world offer BA (Hons) degrees and most countries consider an honours degree more prestigious than a non-honours degree. Learners often assume that this degree is relatively new. Nonetheless, the concept of an honours degree is as old as the hills.

For instance, Nevil Maskelyne (the first British Astronomer Royal) was recorded to complete his bachelor’s degree with honours at Cambridge University in 1754. Today, countries like Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Canada, Malta, Singapore, and many others offer honours undergraduate degrees.

Typically, the timespan of a BA (Hons) degree is three years. The degree combines research and ideas for various subjects, including History, Philosophy, Sociology, Education, psychology, and Literature. The degree allows students to develop and learn particular skills in their cultural and social contexts. As such, they remain updated with new research that helps them develop key life-long skills.

In the UK, there are two types of undergraduate degrees:

Single Honours: You get to study a single subject.

Joint Honours: You gain extensive knowledge in two subjects of your choice (these subjects can be from two distinct fields too).

Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science

Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science

BA and BA (Hons): What’s the Difference?

Since BA and BA (Hons) both are regarded as “Bachelors of Arts,” one may wonder what the difference between both is. When pursuing a BA degree, you study a combination of different subjects. That means you get to learn a little about various subjects including, History, Geography, Literature, Political Science, etc.

An Honours degree, on the other hand, allows you to specialize in a particular subject. Hypothetically speaking, if you are interested in British History or Shakespeare’s poetry piques your interest, going for a standard BA degree is not a wise move.

You will need to study several courses, and you won’t be able to gain more knowledge about the field that intrigues you. Therefore, if you are particular about your choices in the field of study, it’s best to go for a BA (Hons) degree.

BA (Hons) will give you a chance to study your favourite subject in detail. Yes, the course is extensive and may require you to do some research, but you learn a lot about your field of study by the end of the day.

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Why Study BA (Hons)?

If you have to pursue research in the future or become a lecturer at a university, a BA (Hons) degree is the right choice. Within a classroom setting, some students are classified as “intelligent,” while the rest are categorized as “unintelligent.” But what exactly defines intelligence? A popular phrase goes like this, “Everybody is intelligent, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

So, even if you consider yourself incompetent, there must be something that you’re good at and that intrigues you simultaneously. If you’ve identified your favourite field/subject, you’re already on the path to success. Here’s when you should go for an Honours degree in your preferred art field. An Honours degree will involve extra credit classes and more extensive study, but you’ll gain practical knowledge of your subject.

The research-based degree will open doors for you in the employment industry. Employers today rarely look at your degree. Instead, they test your technical and practical knowledge. With specialization in your field, you’ll likely impress your employer and earn a job earlier than you would gain with an ordinary BA degree.

Nonetheless, with proper guidance and mentorship, students can choose the right subject that complements their skills and is in line with their interests. Online tutors, including those specialised in their fields such as A-Level Maths tutors and IB Maths tutors, play a pivotal role in providing personalised guidance and support, helping students navigate through their academic journey with greater confidence.

BA vs BA (Hons): Which is Better?

This or that?

With fierce competition in education, more students are concerned about their future academics, and as such, many wonder which field is better for them. Let’s take a closer look:

1. Since BA (Hons) is becoming more popular, universities around the globe are offering several scholarships with Honours programs covering the cost of accommodation, tuition fee, books, and health.

2. The Honours curriculum assists future employers to become creative and confident and gain experience in the relevant field.

3. An Honours degree will allow you to enhance your skills in a particular subject and help you gain more knowledge than a standard BA degree. A famous phrase goes like, “It’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly.” So, perhaps mastering one particular skill is better than trying to learn many (and failing to do so eventually).

4. An Honours degree will allow you to enhance your skills in a particular subject and help you gain more knowledge than a standard BA degree. A famous phrase goes like, “It’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly.” So, perhaps mastering one particular skill is better than trying to learn many (and failing to do so eventually).

5. The Honours curriculum allows you to perform research in a relevant field under the supervision of an experienced professor.

6. From an academic perspective, an Honours degree undoubtedly has more value than an ordinary degree. As such, you have a better chance of getting into a university.

You can also hire an A-Level tutor or an IB tutor to increase your chance of getting admission to a university. They can provide you with A-Level resources and IB resources which can be crucial in performing well in your A-Level and IB exams too. Achieving good grades in these can help students become strong candidates in the admissions to top universities.

Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that BA (Hons) is a better option. Students get a chance to polish their skills which proves beneficial for their future academic and professional lives.

Wrap Up

To sum up, BA (Hons) is an undergraduate bachelor’s degree in arts. Many colleges and universities offer both honours and non-honours degrees.

However, an honours degree has been gaining traction from the past few years and for good reasons. It allows you to specialize in your choice of subject. As a result, you gain more knowledge in that particular field.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

George Christofi

Written by: George Christofi

Oxford University - Masters Philosophy

George studied undergraduate and masters degrees in Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, as well as spending time at Yale. He specialises in helping students with UK and US university applications, including Oxbridge and the Ivy League. He writes extensively on education including on schools, universities, and pedagogy.

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